A Visit Down Home

Sometimes this life is unpredictable and presents us with unexpected challenges. We believe that we are headed in one direction and, before we know it, something or, in the case of Judy and Jerry Horton someone arrives on the scene and our lives are changed forever. Judy and Jerry were reflecting on the onset of their “empty nest” years when Judy found out she was pregnant. Several months later Kelly Page Horton arrived. She was a healthy, beautiful baby with Down Syndrome.

Since Judy and Jerry spent most of their working years at colleges and universities, they were very adept at research. So the search began for answers. The same questions that all parents of children with Down Syndrome face: she’ll be safe and secure at home, but what will she do when she grows up? What about friends? Education? Work? How can we meet all of her needs? Who will pay for her care?
Image 19
This was the beginning of a remarkable journey for the Horton’s and the birth of the Down Home Ranch. They decided, with the help of friends, clergy and the community, to build a working farm and ranch for people with disabilities. This would be a place of love and opportunity, the best hope for Kelly’s future life. They envisioned a place where residents could enjoy
freedom to study, visit friends, learn, train and join in a variety of activities.

Down Home Ranch is a residential facility and working farm and ranch. Forty adults and children live year round on the ranch caring for 330 beautiful forested acres of Post Oak Savannah in Central Texas.  The 32 Ranchers and 30 staff and family members tend animals, raise food and celebrate the seasons of life together. Although the ranch has become the old-fashioned community that was always envisioned since the very beginning, it is not an isolated community. Residents are welcomed into the surrounding communities and cultures.

There is room for more! Residency is open to persons who: are at least 18 or older and have finished high school; desire to live on a real working Texas ranch; are able to benefit from the residential social, educational and vocational programs offered by Down Home Ranch; and wish to live in close proximity to friends and co-workers on the Ranch. If you are interested in finding out more about residency options and opportunities, check out the web site at www.downhomeranch.org.
Image 21
When I visited Down Home Ranch, I found the friendships and camaraderie to be overwhelming. The spirit of harmony is amazing. Each camper or resident is a precious individual. Their life choices are respected and honored. There is a remarkable sense of belonging and succeeding. Ranchers may, at some point, decide to move from the ranch and strike out on their own in a nearby community. Perhaps they’ll marry or receive more training and education. With the strong friendships that have been established at Down Home Ranch, horizons are expanded through shared work, play and worship. I found myself bonding immediately with residents and family members. Down Home Ranch was started in a tent and is now a thriving community that has been created for people with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities. It is a place where lives are changed. It is a place of complete acceptance where our precious children can develop into valued independent adults. It is Down Home Ranch.

By, Lloyd Lewis
President/CEO, Arc Thrift Stores

arc University Awards 94 Graduates with Diplomas

Image

In grand style before an audience of cheering families and friends, 94 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities proudly accepted their college diplomas Wednesday evening from Arc University. Arc University, formed in 2012, is the vision of the management team at Arc Thrift Stores of Colorado. Through a $100,000.00 grant from The Daniel’s Fund, Arc developed “Arc U” to provide an education in life skills for team members with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The 94 graduates received a variety of degrees including Certificates of Participation and Doctorate Degrees.

Arc University is a 12-month program, which consists of monthly sessions covering various topics from financial literacy, music appreciation, pet care, transportation mobility and food preparation. The program is managed much like a university including lecturers, course work, study guides and exams.  “The Arc University program allows individuals in the developmental disability community to achieve what so many of us take for granted,” stated Lloyd Lewis President/CEO, Arc Thrift Stores. “They achieve a sense of independence and accomplishment. With the skills learned, they increase their self esteem allowing them to effectively and actively participate in the Colorado community.”

At age 60, class Valedictorian, Dennis Schwed, addressed his graduating class with the following advice, “Do the best you can with what you have and enjoy life to the fullest.”

Radio talk show host Angie Austin delivered the commencement speech. Former First Lady of Colorado and Arc Thrift Stores Community Relations Director Frances Owens, along with Penfield Tate, Faye Tate, Cleo Parker Robinson, Tamra Ward,Stephen Burg, Lynne Valencia and Patti Dennis were also in attendance.

Melissa, 10, is an American Girl

We are so happy to share this video with you all about this sweet young lady.

 

Pennsylvania’s Melissa Shang, 10, is asking the toy company American Girl to make a doll for girls like her, with disabilities. Melissa has a form of muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, and she credits the American Girl dolls with helping her to understand “what it’s like to be someone else.” Now, she wants other kids to understand what her life is like. In her petition, she writes:

Being a disabled girl is hard. Muscular Dystrophy prevents me from activities like running and ice-skating, and all the stuff that other girls take for granted. For once, I don’t want to be invisible or a side character that the main American Girl has to help: I want other girls to know what it’s like to be me, through a disabled American Girl’s story.

The company seems primed to listen. This year they added hearing aids and allergy-free lunches to their accessories list, furthering a mission to create empathy. Normalizing disabilities is a step we’d like to see taken. Go, Melissa Shang! Watch her video, above, and sign her petition here.

Lloyd Lewis

Lloyd Lewis

“When Lloyd Lewis goes to work as president and CEO of arc Thrift Stores, he is inspired every day by his son, Kennedy, who was born in 2003 with Down Syndrome.”  Read more of the great article written by Lynn Bronikowski of ColoradoBiz Magazine.  We are proud to have such a visionary leader captaining the arc Thrift Stores ship!